Making the Jackson Speed run down the Oconee River

Our boats on Rose Creek just before we broke camp to make the Jackson Speed Run down the Oconee.

Our boats on Rose Creek just before we broke camp to make the Jackson Speed Run down the Oconee.

Friday night I camped out on Rose Creek and then paddled the Oconee River from Rose Creek to a boat ramp at a place called Dyar’s Pasture.

If you have a familiarity with the area and know my Jackson Speed novels, you’ll understand why – even though the current of the Oconee is slow to nothing along this stretch – I’m calling this the “Speed Run.”

Rose Creek enters the Oconee River just above an abandoned old mill town called Scull Shoals. Scull Shoals, of course, is the place where Jackson Speed was brought up and first began his gallivanting ways. It was along this stretch of the Oconee River where Jackson Speed made his very first flight from an enraged and cuckolded husband – Uriah Franks (El Teneria).

In Speed’s day, the river would have moved a bit swifter than it did on Saturday when my buddy Rodney Carr and I paddled the river.

Dyar’s Pasture is at the north end of Lake Oconee, one of two man-made lakes between Scull Shoals and Milledgeville, where Speed disembarked from the river. The lakes slow the current. My suspicion is that in 1845, when Speed made his run down the Oconee, the river flowed similarly to the current on the North Oconee up around Athens, Georgia.

It was a fun experience to paddle the river there and camp across the river from Scull Shoals. We actually drove down to Scull Shoals and put in there, paddling around the rock piling that once supported the toll bridge controlled by the blacksmith (who in the Speed universe was Speed’s uncle).

The spot we found to camp on Rose Creek was a perfect little ledge just the right size for a campsite, and I could easily imagine Speed swimming across the Oconee (or, in summers with little rain, walking across the Oconee) to camp out on Rose Creek.

One of the things I love about paddling around north Georgia is the history I get to see. On the North and Middle Oconee rivers, there are old dams – now broken down – that helped to run mills. On the Apalachee, another river we frequently paddle when the water is high enough, there is a sandbar where we can always find Native American pottery shards and sometimes arrowheads.

Rodney had recently read about Frenchmen who in the 1600s used the Oconee River to transport gold from the North Georgia mountains.

If you’re like me and you have a love of history, I would strongly encourage you to get a canoe and put it in a river. Rivers used to be our highways, and the history around them is fascinating.

So, if you’re a Jackson Speed fan, don’t be surprised if the next Speed novel includes a scene with Speed camping on a ledge on Rose Creek.

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